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Summer is in full swing. And as the days grow longer (and, in many places, hotter) you’ve probably heard more than a few people say something along the lines of “It looks like the dog days of summer are here!”

But what, exactly, does that mean? Does it mean that the ideal season for dogs has finally arrived? Or that you should spend more time this summer devoted to your pet? Or is it something else entirely—something that has nothing to do with canines?

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In other words, what are the dog days of summer, anyway?

Where does the term “dog days of summer” come from?

Before we jump into what the term “dog days of summer” actually means, let’s quickly cover where it came from.

The summer part of the phrase is new. According to National Geographic, the term “dog days” originally had nothing to do with the warm summer months. In fact, it didn’t even have anything to do with dogs—it’s all about a star.

Back in the old days, Greeks and Romans would track Sirius—the dog star—and its position in the sky. In late July, Sirius would seem to rise right before the sun—a period the Greeks and Romans started to refer to as the “dog days.”

Late July also happens to be the hottest time of the year in that part of the world, so the dog days coincide with all sorts of issues, like fires and other catastrophes. Eventually, the term became more closely linked to the scorching temperatures than the star Sirius—which is where the term “dog days of summer” comes from.

What does the dog days of summer actually mean?

Ok, so now that you know the ancient origins of the term “dog days of summer,” let’s talk about what the term actually means today.

Today, when people refer to the dog days of summer, they’re just talking about the peak of summer, when the ever-increasing temperatures make it feel like the heat will never let up.

A lot of people think that “dog days of summer” has to do with dog behavior. For example, it’s so hot during the peak of summer that dogs go crazy from the heat or they can’t keep themselves cool in the rising temperatures.

But the truth is, the term “dog days of summer” literally has nothing to do with dogs! So while there might be some truth to your pet acting a little off in the peak of the summer (and when it’s that hot outside, who can blame them), that’s not what the phrase is actually referring to.

How to protect your dog during the dog days of summer

Now, the term “dog days of summer” might not have anything to do with dogs. But that doesn’t mean your dog doesn’t need a little help to get through those long, hot days!

Here are a few tips to keep your pet happy and healthy through the dog days of summer:

  • Make sure your dog has plenty of water. The higher the temperature, the higher the risk of dehydration—and the more water your dog needs to stay happy, healthy, and safe. When it’s hot outside, make sure your dog has plenty of access to water throughout the day—and make sure to check the bowl regularly in case your pet needs a refill.
  • Keep activity at a manageable level. Your pet might love to go on long walks or spend hours running around at the dog park. But during the peak of summer, too much activity can cause overheating—which can put your pet in danger. When it’s hot outside, make sure to keep exercise and activity to a manageable level—and if you notice your dog getting tired or showing signs of overheating (like excessive panting, drooling, or weakness), make sure to take them inside and give them a chance to rest and cool down.
  • Take care of your pet’s paws. With scorching temperatures come scorching pavement—and when you’re walking your dog, the high temperatures of the asphalt can injure their paw pads. Keep walks on asphalt short—or, even better, take them for a walk in a shaded, grassy area. You can also buy your dog a pair of dog booties to protect his paws.
  • Never, ever, EVER leave your dog in the car. The interior of cars can get dangerously hot—and fast. Never leave your dog in a parked car; not only is it extremely dangerous for your dog, in many states, it’s also illegal.
  • Don’t leave your pet unattended near water. Many dogs love the water—but not all dogs are the best swimmers. If you’re going to take your dog for a dip in a pool, lake, or another body of water, make sure they’re supervised at all times.

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